No real assistance for Grade 6 pupils

Dear Editor,
The contents of a Department of Public Information press release, titled “NGSA to be written by July”, which was released on May 20, 2020, have left me very alarmed.
According to the article, “The National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) is expected to be held within the next two months. This disclosure was made by the Minister of Education, Dr. Nicolette Henry. The Minister explained that ample time was given to parents and students to prepare, and urge parents to work along with their children”.
One must first take note that Minister Henry, instead of speaking publicly, chose to make this very important revelation to one section of the media. This Education Minister is failing our children. It has been more than two months since children have not been exposed to classroom teaching, and the Ministry is yet to put in place a proper alternative arrangement which will benefit every pupil, regardless of economic strata.
Grade Six students were in preparation mode since the start of Grade Five. That pace was accelerated at the start of this academic year, last September. Having been at home for more than nine weeks, this completely new learning environment will obviously affect the children’s performance; any sensible person would know that. To come now and say that students will be given two months to physically and psychologically prepare for one of the most important competitive examinations in their lives is a dangerous road to walk.
The Ministry of Education and the Minister herself must take full responsibility for the setback our students are facing. No preparation was made to prepare both teachers and students to adjust to these present challenges. The Ministry and the Minister simply turned their backs and sat quietly in their offices as the hard work put in by students, their parents and teachers went down the drain.
Teachers and parents, I believe, are doing the best they can in the current circumstances. The onus was on the Ministry to put a proper plan in place for our Grade Six students. Teachers are using methods, some of which they are unfamiliar with, to make these work. Our students cannot properly prepare for a national assessment in two months without proper assistance from their teachers in the classrooms.
I would suggest that, at the appropriate time, the Grade six students should be provided with physical contact learning sessions so as to better prepare them for the Assessment. In my opinion, October or November, 2020 is probably more realistic.
Until now, no one can say when schools are likely to be reopened, or what system will be put in place to teach this particular group of students. It cannot simply be left to parents, who have no expertise in teaching a Grade Six Syllabus, and to teachers to use Zoom and WhatsApp.
Quite a number of households in Guyana are without a computer, and even though we may want to say that the students can use their parents’ cellular phones for online teaching, many parents have to go to work, and the children are left without a cellular at home. This is the reality of Guyana, and this cannot work. Students need to return to a classroom setting if they are to be properly prepared. The information on the Ministry’s Website and the programmes on the radio and television are not tailored to suit Grade Six students.
Other countries are putting measures in place to assist students and to ensure an adequate delivery of educational material.
I know of at least one Caribbean island where CSEC students have returned to the classroom. What has become of Guyana’s CSEC students?
This is blatantly unfair. Get your act together, Minister Henry! Come out of hiding, and face the students, the teachers and parents. Our nation’s children deserve better.

Africo Selman
Concerned Grade Six